Teachers hope for solutions to Kentucky pension shortfall

A $14 billion budget shortfall could impact tens of thousands of teachers that educate your children. Retired and current teachers in Kentucky are hoping the state finds a solution to the issue soon.

The Kentucky Teacher’s Retirement System or KTRS manages retirement for more than $72,000 active teachers and $49,000 retired teachers. It only has half the money it needs to cover those benefits. The system sold $650 million of its investments last year to pay out the benefits.

Teaching at the McCracken Regional Juvenile Detention Center is what Crystal Culp says she was meant to do.

"I’m making the biggest difference for students in juvenile detention, and every teacher is going to tell you that about their classroom’s students," Culp said. 

Culp didn’t get into teaching for the money, but had the comfort of knowing she had a pension until recently.

"I’m going to retire in eight to 10 years. It concerns me about what is going to be there for me," Culp said.

About 13 percent of teachers’ paychecks goes to KTRS for their pensions. They also don’t have access to spousal benefits or social security.

"In the end, if my spouse were to die, I am left with that one pension to help support me to the end of my life," Culp said.

The Paducah/McCracken County Retired Teachers Association says not only will this shortfall affect thousands of teachers, but it could also impact their students.

It’s part of the reason the president of the local retired teachers association, Charlotte Benton, is determined teachers get the pension they deserve.

"If teachers realize what’s happening to them and their retirement’s going to end up very small, then many may leave the classroom," said Benton 

KTRS Deputy Secretary Beau Barnes says this is nothing new —the system has never been fully funded.

"I think that members of the general assembly and government have stated publicly this is a very important issue," Barnes said.

Teachers like Culp aren’t as optimistic. 

"It’s a sad situation. I don’t know why anyone wants to go into teaching today," Culp said.

Gov. Matt Bevin is calling for the state to generate more money to fix shortfalls that threaten the state’s retirement systems. He’s expected to address the issue when he announces his budget proposal Tuesday night. Bevin says his plan won’t raise taxes.
He says it will rely on taking excess state revenue to put toward the pension crisis. The presentation of Bevin’s budget plan at a joint session of Kentucky’s General Assembly will be televised on Tuesday.

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